In its efforts to serve high school dropouts and older folks returning to the workforce, Rogue Community College is abandoning "paper and pencil" GED testing and moving to computer tests — which can be a challenge for people who have never turned on a computer or who know only how to surf the Internet and Facebook.
However, says Linda Renfro, dean of instruction for RCC's School of Workforce and College Preparation, the college is doing all it can to bring non-computer literate students up to speed.
RCC will offer GED classes, with emphasis on word processing, at all three of its Learning Centers — at the Riverside Campus in Medford, the Table Rock Campus in White City, and the Redwood Campus in Grants Pass.
Students in the Illinois Valley can study at the Kerby Learning Center.
"Students who have started with the pencil-and-paper testing will be able to complete it through the end of 2013," says Renfro, "but after that it's all going to be computer-based."
The General Educational Development test gives students equivalency to a high school diploma. Earning a GED enables students to apply for the range of financial aid programs that are available to most students.
The GED represents a challenge for many who dropped out of high school late in their teens, as well as for workers in once-secure areas who found their jobs wiped out by recent changes in the economy and now find themselves applying for jobs that require a high school diploma.
Homeschoolers also have to get the GED, "but they're usually well-prepared, and it won't take long," she notes.
The GED has five parts and is usually given one part at a time, says Renfro, with students studying for the exam months in advance. However, she says, the computer-based test may be taken all at once by students who feel up to the information and computer tasks.
"It's going to be difficult for the people in their 40s through 60s, unless they have computer experience. We still see some people who have never turned on a computer. Some know Facebook and the Internet, but not word programs."
The old GED cost $140, but the new one will be near $200 starting next year. Computer classes are starting next week on the three campuses, with more than 1,000 people already in line to complete the GED.
Benefits of the computer-based system include around-the-clock, one-stop online registration, payment and scheduling, flexible testing appointments, and instant test scores on all but the writing exam.
In Jackson County, all GED tests will now be taken at the Table Rock Campus in White City.
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.